15 September 2008

Bad Reactions

I read the story about the undernourished (not malnourished) infant with some dismay and considerable disgust. Here is yet another example of the poor judgement exercised by the staff at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, yet another inappropriate and reactionary intervention by the Children's Aid Society, and yet another episode of bull-headedness by Toronto Police Service.

For those not following the news, here's a brief synopsis, not spun from the self-righteous perspective of imposed authority: An infant has multiple allergies to the various sources of nourishments, including prepared formulae, solid food, and even his mother's breast milk (which itself suggests that there's likely something in the mother's diet that's causing problems). He suffers from severe eczema (which is usually a manifestation of a systemic allergic reaction). The mother seeks treatment from a naturopath since the family's religious beliefs eschew conventional medical interventions. After some unsuccessful attempts, the naturopath recommends going to Sick Kids for some further tests. The mother takes the child for tests, and the hospital insists on admitting the child for a medical intervention. The mother chooses to think about the recommendation, leaves the hospital, and then returns a few days later, prepared to agree to the intervention (connecting the child to IV). In the meantime, a city-wide parent-hunt is launched to find this family, and upon presenting themselves at the hospital to have their child treated according to the medical staff's recommendation, the child is seized by CAS, and the parents are arrested by the police.

There was no evidence that this child has been abused, neglected or otherwise mistreated - in fact, all evidence and witnesses to the child's life tell an opposite story. Why, then, the over-reaction by authorities? Why the self-righteous proclamations about rescuing this child and putting him "in care."

The key has to do with that very elusive word, "care." What do the authorities at Sick Kids Hospital, the Children's Aid Society, and Toronto Police Service actually care about? As organizations, they sure don't care about parents, children or families. That's not to say that there are not individuals who care deeply about parents, children and families. Institutionally, these organizations are incapable of caring about people - they are designed to care for their own preservation and demonstrating the correctness and justification for their actions.

If the child (God forbid!) were to have succumb to malnutrition and the institutions did not act to "rescue" the child, the organizations' lack of action would (once again) be held up to public scrutiny. So they acted in the only way they know how: extreme use of force and coercion to preserve the integrity of their mission, and the correctness of their objectives and actions. Did the hospital obtain a proper, holisitic history of the family (as opposed to a simple medical history)? Did medical authorities, upon learning that the child was apparently allergic to his mother's breast milk, call in an expert from La Leche League to counsel the mother on allergens potentially passed from mother to child? On her first visit, did the hospital authorities treat the mother with compassion and understanding for her dilemma regarding treatment, and arrange for follow-up contact as she considered her alternatives, instead of immediately acting to confiscate the child - a terrifying act of aggression against any parent? Was the Emergency Task Force with its flak jackets, heavy armament and terrifying demeanour really necessary to deal with an already intimidated mother who is, and always has been, demonstrably concerned for the welfare of her child?

The parents appear in court this morning on charges of obstructing police, since that is the only thing with which she could possibly be charged - notably she is not being charged with any offence relative to the child, since she did nothing wrong, except possibly trusting the medical establishment to do right! I sincerely hope the justice who hears the case severely reprimands the hospital, the CAS and the Police Service for their inappropriate and heavy-handed action here. According to the unspun facts, it seems to me that the mother was acting both according to her conscience and in the best interests of the child. The institutions involved are culpable in doing neither.

(I could go into a Valence Theory explanation for the institutions' behaviours, but I think that it's fairly obvious - extreme focus on mission, objectives and outcomes, with no regard for the Identity and Socio-psychological valence relationships that the parents have in their religion.)

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

No comments: